Artist of the Week - Emily McGaughey Screen Printing & Illustration
Edited for content and clarity by Shannon Parris.
Welcome back to Artist of the Week, where we interview a different I Made It! Market artist every week! You can follow along with us on Instagram and Facebook. This week’s artist hails from Titusville, PA and currently resides in Millvale, PA. Emily McGaughey is the one woman show behind Emily McGaughey Screen Printing & Illustration. Check her out at www.etsy.com/shop/EMcGaugheyDesigns.
Shannon Parris: Hi, Emily! Please introduce yourself.
Emily McGaughey: Okay! I've always been drawing since I was little, and I took a lot of art classes in high school in Titusville, PA where I grew up. I went to college at Edinboro University. I originally went for animation, but I switched to Graphic Design and Printmaking later on. After college, I moved to Pittsburgh. Outside of making, I love watching cartoons, playing video games, reading comic books and cooking!
SP: Ah nice! That makes sense. I love learning about artists' backgrounds and education. And I love seeing people do what they went to school for! Next, introduce your business.
EM: I'm a Printmaker and Illustrator that applies my bright, bold, and whimsical work to a variety of handmade items. My illustrations are incorporated into screen printed posters, hand bound notebooks, stickers, pins and magnets. The work I create is inspired by video games and cartoons, and features a lot of goofy cats.
SP: Do you have an “elevator pitch” that you use to sum up your business when people ask what you do?
EM: I make colorful and cute handmade products!
SP: Where did you get the idea or inspiration for your art?
EM: Definitely video games. I grew up practicing drawing artwork from Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Paper Mario, and Pokemon. I think after drawing like that so many times, it evolved into my style I draw in today! I've always enjoyed making things by hand, too. So it felt like a natural application to make my drawings into things that could be used, like stickers or pins.
SP: That's so interesting! So, since you have a unique process, I'd like to talk about that. Do you have a piece that you've documented the process for?
EM: Yes! I have some time lapse videos of some of my drawings, and a lot of different process photos. Most of the stuff I still have original sketches too - I think it's really interesting to see where ideas start! They all kind of start in the same place, but the production process is a little different.
SP: I love your screen prints, and as you know, I have a couple on my cat art gallery wall! Can you tell me about your creative process for making a screen print, from idea to market?
EM: All of my ideas always start in a sketchbook - I carry one with me everywhere, and always take notes on possible ideas, and make rough sketches. When I find one I like, I take a photo of the sketch to draw over on my tablet. I recently switched to an iPad Pro, and I love it! On my iPad, I draw each layer that I'm going to print, starting with the outline, then color, and then highlights and shadows last.
EM: From there, I take my digital file and expose it on a screen printing screen, which basically makes a super-accurate stencil. I also hand-mix all my inks to match my original drawing. From there, each layer is printed by hand using the ink. All the layers are registered and lined up on top of each other to create a screen print.
SP: Is there a tool you can’t live without?
EM: Yes! Definitely my iPad - I use it for everything: sketching, final illustrations, keeping track of inventory, and managing my insanely detailed to-do lists. And it's small enough that I can carry it everywhere!
SP: What surprises you about this kind of business?
EM: I've been surprised about how welcoming and friendly the community is! Even though vendors are technically competing against each other for sales, it's never really felt that way. Every show I do I learn a new business tip, get new ideas for products or other shows to do, and meet someone new that's awesome! It doesn't feel too competitive, more like a whole community of people motivating each other.
SP: What motivates you to continue?
EM: Around last year I took the jump to working for myself full-time, and that's definitely my biggest motivator! I love being my own boss, and seeing how far I can take my artwork. Plus, I really enjoy what I do so it's easy to be motivated to work most of the time!
SP: What is the most challenging part?
EM: The most challenging part for me is the business-y parts that are pretty unavoidable. Things like taxes, sales tax, growing your business and licenses. There's been a lot I didn't know about starting out, but I'm learning along the way!
SP: When and how did you decide to start selling your work?
EM: When I was little I used to go to a little holiday craft show called Santa's Workshop in my hometown. This was always something that I thought looked like so much fun to do! I had a lot of old prints from college that I needed to get rid of, so I signed up for the yART sale at Pittsburgh Center of the Arts to try it out.
SP: What made you decide to apply to I Made It! Market?
EM: After the yART sale, I was looking for more opportunities to sell my work! I went to I Made It! Mine one year, and loved it. I knew I had to apply to the next one!
SP: Were you accepted into the first IMI event you applied to?
EM: No - I think I applied to the Valentine's show the next year and didn't get in. There might have been a few others, too. Looking back, I still had such a long way to go to develop more products and my display. I don't think I was quite ready yet!
SP: I think it's great for aspiring IMI vendors to hear about journeys like this. Mine was similar. What kind of things did you change by the time you were accepted?
EM: I think the first I Made It! I got into was the Squirrel Hill Night Market last summer. By then, I had completely rethought my display to make it a better shopping experience. I also made so many new stickers, pins, and screen prints, so my booth didn't look empty!
SP: Wonderful! Is there anything you want aspiring makers or aspiring I Made It! Market artists to know?
EM: Don't quit creating! Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged if a product didn't sell like you thought it would, or you didn't get accepted into an event. But it's worth it to keep trying, and keep making what you love!
SP: I love that! Is there anything else the world needs to know about Emily McGaughey Screen Printing & Illustration?
EM: Hmmm... just that I'm most active on instagram: @emcgaugheydesigns. I show a lot about my process in creating and new products and drawings!